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Woman is having the morning coffee at home

How important is self-care?  When you are a parent, self-care is a requirement.

Did you catch that? A REQUIREMENT! 🙂

Now that the kids are back in school hopefully you have a little more time in your schedule, if not you may just have to carve out the time.  If you struggle to find the time, wake up 15 minutes earlier or stay up 15 minutes later, put it in a your calendar just like an appointment, do some self-care over your lunch or while the kids are napping.  Self-care does not have to take a lot of time it just has to be something that gives you a break, is done on a regular basis and helps you re-energize.


There are many different types of self-care:

  • Physical – moving your body such as going for a walk, a run, dancing, yoga, bike riding or any physical movement you enjoy.
  • Emotional – honoring the way you are feeling that day- expressing your feelings in a journal, listening to your favorite music, talking with someone and sharing your thoughts and feelings.
  • Spiritual – doing something good for your soul such as making a gratitude list, writing a thank you note, practicing positive self-talk.
  • Personal- spending some time doing a hobby you enjoy such as reading, knitting, baking.
  • Social – spending quality time with someone such as meeting a friend for coffee, watching a movie and eating popcorn with your spouse after the kids have gone to bed, calling a friend.
  • Household – cleaning and organizing a room, closet or even a drawer.
  • Pampering- treating yourself by having your nails done, buying a special treat, enjoying a bubble bath or massage.

There are so many ways we can help ourselves feel better and live healthier, less stressful lives.  If you are treating yourself with love and kindness, you will respond to your kids and spouse in a kinder more loving manner as well.  Self-care is a requirement not an elective.  Challenge yourself to start today.

This blog post was written by Sherie Madewell-Buesgens, Post Adopt Coordinator

Trauma-Informed Schools

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With school beginning, some students may be excited to return, while others may be anxious about the
transition. A child who has experienced trauma may view aspects and tasks included in the school environment as a
trigger. In 2018, more than two thirds of children reported at least 1 traumatic event by age 16, contributing to the
research showing children who have experienced trauma may find it more challenging than their peers to pay attention,
process new information, and some may even develop sensory processing difficulties which can contribute to problems in
writing and reading.

First, let’s take a quick look at trauma and the body. Every human being has an alarm system in their body that is
designed to keep them safe from harm. When activated, by an event or series of events, this tool prepares the body to
fight, flight, or freeze. When a child experiences such toxic stress the brain goes into overdrive and is in “survival mode”.
As a result, behaviors, stemming from the trauma can reflect inside and outside the classroom. These symptoms of
traumatic stress may present differently in each child and at different developmental stages. Examples of traumatic
symptoms include, struggling to pay attention, difficulty processing new information, and sensory processing difficulties
which can contribute to problems in writing and reading.

Risk concept on speedometer. Vector icon

As a response to trauma and the effects it has on the brain, trauma-informed schools (TIS) intentionally create
policies and practices sensitive to the needs of traumatized students and work to create learning environments where
everyone feels safe and supported. In the documentary Paper Tigers, Jim Sporleder, Principal at Lincoln High School
in Walla Walla Washington and pioneer of TIS, explains “behavior isn’t the kid, behavior is a symptom of something
going on in their life”. Sporleder took this approach and provided TIS training to all school staff. He then implemented
the trauma training to the school by changing policies and procedures. For example, the school stopped suspensions for
minor infractions, shortened the length of suspension or in-school suspensions, and implemented a restorative justice
approach and modeled forgiveness by mediating before coming to expulsion. What the school found was there was a
90% decrease in suspensions, 75% decrease in fights, and a 5 fold increase in graduation rates.

Establishing TIS is not an easy feat as it involves a mind-shift by teachers, administrators, and other school staff.
It also requires changes to transform school culture, build a supporting infrastructure, and alter curriculum content and
interventions. Trauma-informed schools offer educators tools and strategies to identify, address, and manage traumatic
stress symptoms and support overall educational achievement. A trauma-informed approach to misbehavior will help
educator’s move away from reflexive discipline, which can be re-traumatizing for students, and move towards responses
that help students learn to cope with their feelings by building resilience trough acknowledging the trauma,
understanding its triggers, and avoiding stigmatizing and punishing students. When educators are less inclined to send a
child to the office, seclude, or punish, it speaks to their capacity and commitment to support all children socially,
emotionally, behaviorally, and academically. Accordingly, educators will learn to ask “what happened to you?” rather
than “what’s wrong with you?”

Foster and adoptive parents are familiar and skilled in regards to children and trauma and can advocate for the
child and push for education reform in your community. Two great resources offer templates for adoptive/foster parents
to provide to teachers and administrators at the beginning of the year. By acknowledging how scholastic experience can
influence mental health and understanding the impact of mental health in all developmental domains and applying it to
how children are educated leads to more beneficial educational outcomes for everyone.


This blog post was written by Bailey Kitko, LBSW,  Adoption Specialist @ Adults Adopting Special Kids


“Trauma-Informed Schools.” Ohio Department of Education, June 2019,
“Creating, Supporting, and Sustaining Trauma-Informed Schools: A System Framework.” The National Child Traumatic Stress Network,
3 Oct. 2018,



Letting Go Can Be So Hard

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Raising a child who has experienced trauma from abandonment, foster care, and adoption along with an autism diagnosis is hard.  Letting go and allowing them to take steps toward adulthood is even harder.  I know parents never stop worrying about their children but you worry even more if they aren’t a neuro-typical child and they have a trauma background.  How can I help my child be successful but also give him the independence he so badly wants?

One of the first things we started doing was helping our child with life skills.  He is a little more motivated to learn now knowing he will be on his own soon.  We have taught him how to wash his clothes, how to cook a variety of meals, how to clean each room of the house and how to create and follow a budget.  All of these skills require practice and we haven’t mastered any of them yet.  We did allow him to get his driving permit, but have made him practice driving for a year before allowing him to schedule testing for his driver’s license.  Once he does get his license he will have a contract he needs to abide by until we feel comfortable with him driving on his own.

Another important skill we have found that needs practice is problem solving.  This does not come naturally to most children who come from trauma, as trauma changes our brain, and impacts executive functioning skills.  We practice problem solving skills by giving him a scenario, letting him try to solve the problem and then having him anticipate the outcome.  If the anticipated outcome isn’t the outcome he wants we have him try to solve the problem again until he gets a satisfactory outcome.

The last independent skill we are currently examining and working toward is a future career. My son was approved for vocational rehabilitation which has been a very good experience for us.  Now we are looking into jobs that have on the job training included or the possibility of attending a community college and then transitioning to a 4 year college.  Lots of options and things to consider.

Some children with a trauma background and an autism diagnosis can live independently, they just may need our assistance in completing the obstacle course to get there.  Hopefully my son can reach the independence he so desires and I can get let go a little more each day.


 This blog post was written by post adopt coordinator and rockstar adoptive mom, Sherie Madewell-Buesgens.



Practical Ways to Help Your Child Focus

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“How many times to I have to tell you?!” “It’s something you do EVERY DAY! Why can’t you remember to do it?!”

I’m not sure about you, but I have been known to say these things to my children in my weak moments. I am not proud of myself, and yet there are days when I just can’t seem to help my child “get it.” Now with a new school year starting I am trying to plan ahead for what I know may help our children focus and complete their daily routines wit out frustration… for either of us.
We know that this sort of thing isn’t a quick fix. It’s not something that you can sit down and discuss with your child one time and then it will be better.
Realistically- we are all relatively distracted** people who are raising people who can’t focus, for one reason or another. Time and time again I find myself getting frustrated because I have to remind my child over and over again to do their homework, put their things away, etc. I know that I can’t be the only parent feeling the stress of an impending new school year, change of routine (again) and morning struggles to get out the door on time.

Child sitting on sofa and holding book in front of her face

I recently listened to an Honestly Adoption podcast by Mike and Kristen Berry who offered some great suggestions and insight in to some practical ways to help our children focus and attend to their daily tasks. Check it out for yourself here:

The Honestly Adoption Podcast, Season 10, Episode 92

One of the first ways to address this is to OWN your own lack of focus and have a heartfelt conversation with your child about some things that you have noticed in them. Be honest and discuss some things that work for you to stay on track and get your things done.

Having a conversation with your child by the time you need your child to focus (let’s say before kindergarten) might be very helpful if we can address this with our child (our observations) and include them in on the solutions. Oftentimes with their lack of focus, the child feels out of control and they get frustrated, so including them in creating strategies can really help build that connection between you and also give them some control and greatly reduce some of the frustrations.

Some other ideas that can help with focus are:
>>Creating a list- it is a really good strategy to create lists that include 3 to 5 items that are tangible for the child to be able to follow. These lists need to be very specific and not vague. Lists are a picture clue, or reminder, of what comes next. This will be so important as the kids get older as well because what preteen or teenager wants to be nagged? When we can use the lists it takes that argument/nagging away. Children get to cross the list off and then parents can cross off the item in another color as a seal of approval that it was completed to the expectations set.

>>A key to creating and using these lists is creating structure. These lists your kids use are the same every single day- this way everyone knows what to expect. Consistency is such a game changer- our kids need that. Repeat, repeat, repeat every. Single. Day. The longer you do this the more you are going to see positive results. An example that Mike Berry gave during the podcast suggests creating bite sized chunks of time, or bite sized responsibility for your child. This starts by tasking something small that they can accomplish (focused activity) followed by a period of unfocused activity, or something that they enjoy/want to do. “Let’s do one math problem (or work for 10 minutes on homework) and then you can have 15 minutes of playing your video game. When that is done then we need to complete our work.” This can give the child a tangible, do-able task, with a break included, that is specific and short enough in duration to create an accomplishment!

>>Some kids respond well to using a timer along with their tasks; they are challenged by “beating the timer” and enjoy that OR maybe a timer will stress your child out. That is something you will have to consider and evaluate based on your child’s needs. A visual timer can help those younger kids who cannot yet read a clock.

>>Setting goals can be very fun and helpful as well. Setting a goal like- “let’s put away 10 items each and then we will eat supper, and then…”. This is another example of mixing a focused activity and then unfocused activity.

I hope that you find these suggestions helpful and can find a way to incorporate strategies that will fit your family situation. If you want to hear more information about how to create the lists or other strategies for helping your child I encourage you to look up the Honestly Adoption podcast and Mike and Kristen Berry.


This blog post was written by former Post Adopt Coordinator, Sonya Lundstrom. 


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As you’re trying to rush out the door, you look over at your son on the couch zoned in on his tablet.  “Okay honey, we need to go.  Get your shoes on.”  He doesn’t even acknowledge you as your struggling to balance all you need for the day.  You repeat yourself a little louder.  Still no response.  You try one more time and even toss him his shoes.  He pushes them on the floor and continues with his game.  You decide to snatch the tablet and say “GET YOUR SHOES ON!”  His face turns beet red and he goes in to full meltdown mode.  You look at the clock and realize you have to be at work in 10 minutes!  You grab his shoes and force them on as he’s kicking and screaming the entire time.  You pick him up and run out the door, flustered still after you drop him off and drive to work.  The next morning you decide to hide his tablet, thus removing the distraction.  Problem solved. He wakes up and as soon as he notices his tablet was missing, another meltdown and repeat of the previous morning.

Little boy on doorstep putting his shoes on. 

How frustrating!  He knows you need to go to work.  He knows how to put his shoes on.  Why is he making this so hard for you?  The reality is children don’t enjoy these moments either and are doing the best they can, though it may not seem like it.  According to Dr. J. Stuart Ablon, if kids are challenging, there is something getting in the way and it is our responsibility to figure what that is.  He believes behaviors occur due to a lack or delay of one or more of the following skills: 1) language and communication (ex. Understanding spoken direction or expression of concerns, needs or thoughts in words) 2) attention/working memory (ex. Maintain attention or ignores irrelevant noise or people when necessary), 3) emotion and self-regulation (ex. rational thinking or adjust arousal level relevant to situation) 4) cognitive flexibility (ex. Handles transition well or adjusts to unpredictability) 5) social thinking (pays attention to verbal and nonverbal or empathizes).

So what can we do?  The first thing would be to look at your parenting style.  Are you a parent who uses sticker charts and an allowance to get your kids to complete tasks?  Are you quick to take away electronics or send them to their room if they are having behaviors?  Most people use a traditional way of parenting with rewards and punishments.  Studies are now showing this style fails to teach children complex thinking skills, build a relationship, or help children stay regulated.  In reality, it’s using your power and control to manipulate your child’s behavior and get them to do what you want and does not work long-term.  How long was that sticker chart effective?

Let’s look back at your struggling son.  First, identify the challenging behavior that’s occurring.  He yells, cries, kicks, and refuses to complete his task.  Next, describe the situation prior to the behavior in as much detail as possible.  Clearly, getting the opportunity to play on his tablet in the morning and not being able to is very difficult for him.  You were rushing to get out the door and getting frustrated with him, which may have fueled the tantrum.  Usually, his tantrums occur in the morning before school and he’s able to pull himself together by the time you get to the school.  Now reference above to the potential lagging skills and brainstorm which one(s) may apply to him.  Language and communication may be a struggle for him, as he will scream and cry when he gets his tablet taken away.  He doesn’t seem to have much interest in the schedule, although clearly does a good job of tuning out irrelevant noises (like your voice) so his attention and working memory may be lagging, as well.

Now it’s time for an action plan to avoid this behavior in the future.  Ablon’s Plan B method encourages the child and the adult to work collaboratively on a solution.  Sit down with your son after you pick him up from school and start the conversation with your neutral observation of the behavior that morning, for example, “Hey buddy, you seemed to struggle to get out the door in the morning.  How come?”  It’s important to use empathy and truly attempt to understand their concerns.  He may say he doesn’t like to go to school or playing on the tablet helps him wake up in the morning.  After he has had the opportunity to talk about his concerns, it’s your turn to do the same.  For example, “Yeah, I get that.  So my concern is everyone has to go to school and it’s important that we’re on time.  I also don’t want to get in trouble with my work for being late in the morning.”  You may get some push back when addressing your concerns, but it is important maintain the expectation while still validating their feels.  Exposure to small doses of stress can actually help change the neural connections in the brain. Finally, you will want to encourage him to think of solutions.  As Ablon stated, there is no such thing as a bad idea.  If he is struggling, it’s okay to help brainstorm but making sure he is in control.  Eventually, a solution will be made and he has decided to play his tablet on the way to school, instead of at home. Through that process, you have helped him self-motivate and encouraged skill development or improvement, even the one that may be lagging.

Albon’s Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) Approach is an evidence-based practice that has demonstrated effectiveness with children and adolescents with a wide range of social, emotional, and behavioral challenges across a variety of different settings: from families, schools, mentoring organizations and foster care agencies to therapeutic programs such as inpatient psychiatry units, residential treatment and juvenile detention facilities.  This approach requires practice and may not be successful every time.  Once you have been able to master it, you will find yourself utilizing in other relationships in your life because, hey, we all have lagging skills.

For more information of Dr. Albron’s Collaborative Problem Solving Approach


This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator Brittney Engelhard, LBSW.


Is My Child Being Disobedient or is it a Lack of Executive Functioning?

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What is executive functioning? It is the part of our brain that controls how we think, plan, do and stop. How we think through something; how we plan to get something done; how we execute the task, and how we stop ourselves. For most of us this task is unnoticeable and our brain just does it without us thinking twice about it.  For others, our brain has difficulty with executive functioning, so, for example, our morning routine doesn’t just happen and we need many reminders every day to brush our teeth, make our bed and eat breakfast. Sometimes this disability can also present a lot like ADHD or ADD, but its not.  ADHD/ADD and executive functioning go hand in hand because many of the symptoms of  ADHD are problems with executive function. However, there is one big difference between the two. While ADHD/ADD is an official diagnosis, a lack of executive functioning refers to a weakness in the brains self-management system. In fact, many kids with learning issues, not just ADHD, struggle with some of the same skill deficits.

Executive functioning takes place in the frontal lobes of the brain. The frontal lobes are connected with many other brain areas and coordinate the activities of these other regions. This is also the part of our brain that handles our self-control and our working memory, or, our ability to take one concept and move it to another concept., i.e. the stove is hot at grandmas’ house and because I got burned on it, that means the toaster might be hot as well.  This part of the brain also controls the ability to begin and complete a task.


Child school student with yellow lightbulb and school supplies design elements. 

What can we do to help our child who is struggling with executive functioning issues?

We can start by creating basic routines and focus in on giving bite sized bits of information, often, and break it down to specific areas of the home. For example, when your child wakes up in the morning in her bedroom, she needs to get dressed, make her bed and put on her glasses. Then when she moves to the bathroom she needs to brush her hair, brush her teeth, and take her medicine. Each room has 3 basic tasks to complete while she is there.  Be consistent with the language you use.  “Get dressed = get dressed” every day, not “put your clothes on.”

Practice builds habit. It is said that it takes about 21 days to create a habit, but for those who have ADD or executive function issues it will take a lot longer and it could take years. We want to create that muscle memory. We want their bodies to remember to do things that their executive functioning does not. We want the habit to last over time. This is why consistent routine and language are so important and helpful for these kids.

Sometimes we may also have to be the external brain for our child until they mature enough to take it over; or, maybe they will always need an external brain to help keep them on task. The idea is if we are not able to do executive functioning tasks, then we need an outside brain to walk through those steps  for us. Things like a planner or checklist can help, but may also be challenging to remember to go back and check off.  There are other suggestions such as a watch that has timers and reminders about tasks, or even an app that can help our child through his day.

Is this enabling? Not at all.  Accommodating is NOT enabling.  Having a lack of executive functioning is NOT disobedience, it’s a disability. Giving our child the ability to function independently is not enabling.

Remember that we are raising adults and we want to be able to hand these resources off to our child as they grow and mature. None of these situations are hopeless.

Check out to help your child get organized.

Information and examples discussed in this post can be found online at and

Blog post written by Sonya Lundstrom, LSW, Post Adopt Coordinator in Grand Forks.


How to Prepare for Success on the First Day of School (and for the WHOLE School Year)

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Schoolboy stands in front of the school door. Back to school.

Along with the spiral notebooks, glue-sticks, colored pencils and boxes of tissues comes the well-known stress (and maybe even freedom) of starting a new school year. For those of us with families formed through adoption, this can be especially complicated. Making sure that our child’s needs are met and helping the teacher understand how to manage his/her emotions through the day can be frustrating.  Here are a few pieces of advice to help you help your child succeed in school this year.  (

  1. Establish a line of communication with your child’s teacher. Make sure you take the time to talk with the teacher and share important facts about your child and what his needs are. You can include tips from other providers that may help in the classroom and also what helps at home.
  2. Provide resources/ storybooks about adoption for the teacher to share with the class. Donate some books to the classroom library. Tell the teacher why you like those particular books and why you think that they are important. This may help ensure that the topic of adoption is treated in a natural and appropriate way.
  3. Be aware of sensitive assignments. Some teachers like to have their students create a family tree or something to explore their ancestry. These assignments can be difficult for adopted children for many different reasons. Communicate with the teacher about any concerns with assignments like this and discuss alternatives that may be more inclusive for everyone in the class.
  4. Always prepare your child. We do not have control of others actions or words. Your child’s teacher may have an understanding about your family situation, but another student or peer may not. Talk with your child about things they might hear from other students and why they may have that particular attitude. Help your child with how to share their story on their terms in an age-appropriate way.
  5. Educate the educators. There is always need for more information and knowledge. If your child’s school would like to know more about how to address adoption-related topics there are many resources available to help.

This blog post was written by post adopt coordinator, Sonya Lundstrom, LSW. 

Themes of Conflict in the Home

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As a professional working with youth and families, I’ve noticed some common themes resulting in conflict within the home, specifically when youth reach the adolescent stage of life.  Some of these themes include the youth exhibiting anger and aggression, a constant roller coaster of emotion, lack of communication, and pure defiance.  Maneuvering through these mood swings and behaviors can leave a parent exhausted and with a feeling they’re constantly walking on eggshells around their child.  Sometimes we find ourselves struggling as parents and when we finally ask for help, we have a “fix-my-kid” mentality.  We know this is not a healthy approach, however, hold this mentality because we have exhausted every tool in our toolbox.  As much as I wish I possessed a magic wand I could wave that would make all family units cohesive and eliminate conflict, I don’t.  Unfortunately, change in behavior (parents and children) takes a lot of work and time and will only be successful if all parties are willing to do the work.

One of the most important things a parent can do is to understand the adolescent brain and how it processes the world around them.  Frankly, I could completely geek out on brain development, cognition, neural connections, the procedural memory, etc…. but I may lose many of you.  If you can remember anything about brain development, remember this:  The prefrontal cortex of an adolescent brain, which controls decision-making, is not fully developed.  In addition to adolescent hormonal release, your adolescent’s decision-making and processing ability can be comparable to that of a toddler.  I know, I know, this statement seems a bit ridiculous and frankly insulting to adolescents, but let’s think about this… When was the last time you interacted with a 3-year-old and what do you recall?  I’m guessing you learned fairly quickly to have eyes on them at all times or the next thing you know they’re eating sand or wandering in to a busy parking lot as you’re loading your groceries in the car.

Check out this video to learn more about a child’s brain:

A key quality of a toddler is constantly seeking stimulation and exploration of the world around them, while still relying on the comfort of their caregiver when faced with new, overstimulating environments.  This is typical for children with healthy attachments.  There are similarities in adolescent behavior.  Adolescents are now seeking to understand the world for themselves and ways to seek stimuli gratification and reward.  Rather than learning to walk and eating sand, adolescents are equipped with vehicles and engaging is risky behaviors.  If the parent-child relationship is well maintained, adolescents will often seek comfort from their parents, which is often a bit of a love-hate script.

Advice to parents with adolescents who desire to regain sanity:

  1. Accept the fact that they’re not delicate babies.  They are young, capable adults-in-training.  It may be hard, but try your best to encourage and support their exploration of themselves and the world around them.  Often time behaviors occur when youth feel powerless and they have little or no control over their lives.
  2. Set clear and detailed expectations and consequences with the youth. Sit down with your child to talk about both of your expectations (realistic or unrealistic, all thoughts should be heard) and brainstorm appropriate “if, then” scenarios if these expectations are disrupted.  If youth is not home by her curfew at 10:00pm, then she will lose her phone for 2 days.  An even more detailed example would be: If youth is not home by her curfew Monday through Friday at 10:00pm, and then she will lose her phone for 2 days for every hour she is late.  The purpose is to ensure everyone is aware of the expectations and consequences, leaving no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation, while holding them accountable.  Up the “corniness” of the whole idea and print a contact up, both sign it, and hang it on the fridge.  For warning, you will mostly likely get some push back from your youth about how “lame” it is or how “extra” you’re being, but trust me, it’ll help in the long run.
  3. They will make mistakes. Don’t “should” on your child.  Avoid using statements like “you should know better” or “you shouldn’t have done that.”  This will shut the conversation down fast.  When you use “should” when interacting with others, you’re sending the message of judgement and superiority.  Holding youth accountable in an assertive way will create an assertive adult.  When conflict arises, using simple “I” statements can remove blaming and allow them to understand how you feel.  An example would be, “I feel scared and worried about you when you punch the wall because you might hurt yourself or someone by accident” vs. “What is wrong with you?  Don’t you know you could hurt yourself by doing that?”
  4. Youth have this amazing ability to know how to get a rise out of you.  When things get heated, they know what to say to get you worked up.  Consistently across the board, respect is a major trigger for parents.  When we’re triggered, we begin to lose rationality.  I can’t be the only one who has had an argument with my child and after felt immense guilt for some of the words that came out of my mouth in the heat of the moment.  We’re human.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Take time to calm down, recognize your mistakes, own them, and don’t be afraid to apologize.  They’ll respect you for it.
  5. Continue to explore and learn about yourself. Understand your parenting style and why you are the way you are.  We all have a past that directly dictates how we perceive the world around us and interact with others.  The good news is, no matter how old were are, we can still make changes and grow.  Don’t be afraid to seek help for yourself.
  6. Get comfortable having tough conversations. In a world of social media and advertisement, our children have access to images, videos, and music glorifying risky behaviors.  It’s important to be comfortable and confident enough to have tough conversations.  As much as your adolescent will deny it, you are still one of the most influential people in their life.  If we don’t have those tough conversations with our kids, where will they get their information?

This blog post was written by Brittney Engelhard, Post Adopt Coordinator in Bismarck, ND.

What to Expect When Bringing Your Child to a Therapist

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Your child is struggling with their emotions and behaviors and you would like them to see a therapist. What should you expect?

Shawna Croaker, the Director of Community Based Services and licensed therapist at PATH, gives pointers on what to expect when starting the process.

Legal Paperwork: When starting therapy, you will need to sign paperwork indicating you understand your privacy, responsibility, and confidentiality rights; complete consents for treatment; and provide insurance information. Releases of information need to be signed for anyone you want your therapist to get information from or collaborate with, such as teachers or medical providers. Make sure to ask questions and request copies of these releases if you would like them.

Thorough Assessment: Expect your therapist to ask many questions. They will need history, family, medical, social, educational, behavioral, and functioning information to determine how to best help your child and family. Depending on your child’s age and concerns, your therapist may have you or your child’s teacher complete some additional assessment forms or questionnaires to gather more information.

Diagnosis: Your therapist is gathering information to identify needs and goals, but also to determine a diagnosis. A diagnosis helps guide treatment and is required by insurance companies for reimbursement. A diagnosis may be long-term, as with physical diagnosis, but also may be short-term and discontinued as functioning improves and symptoms decrease.

Explanation and Overview of the Treatment Model and Expected Length of Time for Therapy: The assessment process determines the treatment model used. Some models typically used for children are: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, among others.

Therapeutic Activities that are Appropriate for your Child’s Age and Development: Most children do not benefit from “talk therapy” alone. We know play and interesting activities help children learn, adopt skills, and process trauma and stress. Sometimes things discussed in therapy can be upsetting for a child, so therapists often try to end the session with a brief, fun activity, such as a game, to help ease the transition back to their other environments.

Caregiver Involvement: For therapy to be most effective, research indicates it is important that caregivers are involved to help support the child and guide them through skills learned in session. This helps to translate skills to other environments, as well as improve the relationship with the main caregiver. Caregivers should be involved in all aspects of therapy, from assessment, treatment, and discharge planning.

It is important to remember that therapy is not a magic fix and it can take some time to see progress. In addition to supporting the child individually, it is also helpful for adults to learn new ways to respond to their children’s big emotions and behaviors, and ways to enhance the relationship. Building this relationship is also part of the role of the therapist and will create lasting positive impact.

Nexus has two locations, Gerard Academy in Austin, MN and PATH in Fargo, ND, that offer Outpatient Services. The locations offer services from trained professionals that can assist with the stress of life that can lead to problems at home, work, school, or in the community.

This blog post was originally written for the Nexus blog and used with permission. Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Having trouble finding a therapist in our rural state?  Contact post adopt staff at for referrals and recommendations!



You Are Not Alone

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This post has been submitted by guest blogger, Randy Haaland, a rockstar foster and adoptive dad in North Dakota.

Image result for bear trap ranch

We learned about Road Trip for Dad’s at Camp Connect 2017, which was a summer camp for adoptive parents that was put on by the ND Post Adopt Network.  Mike Berry was the speaker at the camp and he mentioned it during one of his sessions.  When he described it, a few dad’s seemed interested in making the trip, but after the camp was over everyone parted ways.  A month before road trip was to start I was contacted by one of the other dad’s that attended the summer camp to see if I would be interested in road tripping to Colorado to attend Road Trip for Dad’s.  I was a bit hesitant, but was encouraged to go by my wife, which we later found out was a very common occurrence.  After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to go along and give it a try.

We met in Casselton on a Saturday morning and then headed to Bismarck to pick up another dad after that we were on our way to Bear Trap Ranch by Colorado Springs.  One of the dads had planned out our trip because he had experience traveling the route that we were taking.  We shared a lot of experiences on our drive.  We also made some pit stops to sightsee and hit up a couple microbreweries in Deadwood, SD.  He had made reservations at a neat little cook shack called High Plains Homestead in Nebraska.  We ended up spending the night at a small bed and breakfast just down the road.  A couple of the rooms were in a barn, which was comical when we told our wives and kids, but they were actually really nice rooms.  After a good night’s rest, we woke up to a great homemade breakfast from the very interesting and down to earth owner of the bed and breakfast and then we were on our way.  The conversations we had on our road trip were well worth the 14 hour car ride.  I would highly recommend taking the time to actually road trip to Road Trip for Dad’s for anyone looking to attend it.

Arriving at Bear Trap Ranch on Sunday, no one really knew what to expect.  We checked in and claimed our beds in rooms that had two to three bunk beds each.  That night at supper there was a speaker that talked about his experience with adoption, which was really eye-opening to the amount of trauma our kids can come from.  It definitely helped me realize that instead of trying to fix our kid’s problems, sometimes we have to change ourselves and the way we discipline and teach our kids.  That night there was a campfire where we all got to introduce ourselves and learn about each other’s stories.  That night by the campfire really opened my eyes to realize that we are not alone in the parenting of our kids.

The next two days we really had to ourselves to do whatever we wanted.  We did some hiking around the area.   A few dads did some fly fishing one day, another group went up to Pike’s Peak, and of course we went down the mountain to a couple microbreweries.  I would say the most rewarding experience was going on a hike with a large group of dads through a couple old train tunnels.  Just walking through the mountains and seeing all the beauty in the mountains was breathtaking.  It really allowed me to reflect on my past with the kids we have had as foster kids and our kids that we have adopted.  I was able to just sit and think of things I could do differently from the conversations I had with other dads.  I was also able to think about all the ways I could improve on my relationship with my kids and wife.  Over those two days, it really helped me realize that we are not alone in our fight for our kids to be able to have as normal of a life as we can provide them.

The last morning we walked up the mountain to have a cowboy wrangler’s breakfast.  It was an amazing breakfast and it was great to be able to reflect on the past couple days with everyone one last time.  After breakfast we packed up and left.  Leaving was one of the hardest things to do, because it was such an amazing experience, but I was definitely ready to get home and share my experience with the wife and kids.  It is hard to put into words how the trip changed me, but I feel like attending Road Trip for Dads helped me become a better dad.  I have realized over the years of doing foster care that no amount of classes and training can help you deal with some of the issues that our kids come from.  The best training is learning from other families and hearing their stories.  When you listen to someone tell their story and everything starts clicking and you realize that they are talking about exactly what you are going through, it really helps knowing that you are not alone in the battle of raising our kids who came from trauma.

Randy Haaland


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